August 23, 2013

Let's Talk About Reel-To-Reel Decks...

by Chris Randall

I know this is a painful subject for the more modern amongst us, but feel free to step aside and let the old fogies go at it for a little while.

It is going to be a year or more before I can begin tilting at windmills in earnest, and in the meantime I'd like to do some experimenting and reminding myself of these techniques. While I know how to edit tape, make drum loops from tape, make "real" tape delay, all that jazz, it has been some years since I have exercised those particular muscles. While I already know what decks I'm getting for the Windmill (Otari MTR-10 with stereo 1/4" headstacks) I don't have the room in what will be my current space for those beasties, and I just want to have some fun.

So, in shopping about for smaller decks that might have the features that are necessary for What We Do, I landed on the Pioneer RT-701 as a possible candidate. These are readily available (there are several on eBay, and one on PHX Craigslist), reasonably priced, and appear to have the features we need in a very convenient form factor for the ultra-small studio I'll have for the next year. I have never seen one of these in real life, however, let alone used one.

My concern comes from the fact that these are direct drive. Nominally, in a situation where you'd be making tape loops and such-like, the pinch roller pulls the tape off the supply reel, and the take-up reel just has tension on it to ensure it, well, takes it up. So when you don't have a take-up reel (like when you're running tape loops) the device still operates correctly.

So, basically, can any AI readers verify that these will operate in the correct manner? That's the question. If not, suggestions as to another small form-factor (Gods forbid, even portable, aside from the too-spendy Nagra IV-S and its ilk) R2R that will fill the bill.

EDIT: It appears that deck does not have a cue mode, which makes it essentially useless for our needs. Back to the drawing board.


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Aug.25.2013 @ 7:02 PM
Chris Randall
I hope hipsters stay far away from this medium. As far as I'm aware, their interest in tape begins and ends at cassettes.

Anyhow, I just won a Nagra III on eBay, for a very reasonable price, so my needs in this regard will be sated for the time being. Theoretically.


Aug.26.2013 @ 6:40 AM
I just sold my mint Revox B77 and A77 for $250 as they were just collecting dust. Small Nagra would be great.

Aug.26.2013 @ 9:08 PM
yeah i would have recommended a Nagra too. compact and durable. speaking of old fogies - remember Scott Dorsey from newsgroup? i remember his sig:

C'est un Nagra
C'est en suisse
et tres, tres, precis

apparently it was originally from the film 'Diva'

Aug.30.2013 @ 5:24 PM
A77. The original. The best. The Rock n Roll Open Reel.

Aug.30.2013 @ 7:41 PM
Chris Randall
Nagra III showed up today. The knucklehead seller just put it in a box, no peanuts, no bubble wrap, no wadded up newspaper, nothing. Loose in a box. I don't even...

Also, it smells like about 40,000 packs of Pall Mall were exhaled directly on it. I'm a smoker, and this thing actually smells so bad it offends _me_. (Of course, I haven't smoked inside or in a car in years, so I'm much more sensitive to this sort of thing than I used to be.)

In any event, as luck would have it, these things _are_ built like tanks. It works fine; could use a little TLC but on the whole, quite a score for $350. I'm currently in a Death March at Casa Nuevo. As soon as that's done, we have a new Audio Damage product to tidy up and get out the door. Somewhere in there, I may make a couple loops and do a YouTube video. We'll return to our regularly scheduled vitriol in a couple weeks.

Aug.31.2013 @ 1:50 PM
So I have a Teac home stereo system reel-to-reel that was given to me. Dual capstan drive, bi-directional record. I am hanging on to it w/ the notion that I can use it for a simple tape delay. Am I trying to squeeze dirt from a stone? i.e. do-able but a lot of fuckin' work for not unique results? Or either by modding or setup is this something should I invest a couple hours will be fun to muck around with?

Aug.31.2013 @ 1:50 PM
You got a Nagra III for 350 bucks!!!! Gdamit

Aug.31.2013 @ 10:35 PM
Old post I know.

The other problem with consumer R2R decks for even semi seeious concrete (in my experience) is that 99% of them are 1/2 track stereo, which makes if hair-pullingly difficult to do backwards tape on, and makes cut and paste more difficult.

I use a semi cheapo Sony outfitted with full track heads.

Aug.31.2013 @ 10:40 PM
Chris Randall
Mono power FTW! Nagra III!


Sep.04.2013 @ 7:19 AM
Yay! Talking about reel-to-reel!
I procured a friend's Tascam 34 recently for a silly little bit of money and haven't had a lot of time to get into trouble with it yet. At first I borrowed it, merely as a curiosity. But once I'd slammed it with some direct-input guitar from a cheap preamp and got a lovelier sound than any other means of recording I'd yet discovered, and once I did the same with some percussion from the OP-1 and it just fuzzes and fizzes so nice, I knew I'd have to give him the $200 he wanted. The idea being that I'd track to it, then bounce the results to the DAW. It might be overkill for most of what I want to do. I don't think I need four tracks. I do like having two, so I can record multiple parts.
What I don't know is whether it's going to work for doing some of the esoteric play-time that Chris describes.
What would I need to look for to decide if this deck, or any other deck, is appropriate for looping and s-o-s and so on?

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